3,000 Ks for CC
Hall of Fame vice president of communications and education Jon Shestakofsky sat down with Sabathia at Yankee Stadium when Sabathia and the Yankees donated a game-worn jersey and a ball from that game to the Hall of Fame.
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Robbie was one of the smartest players I ever played with. I just remember that me being so young my rookie year, it was hard for me to manage the game and worry about what pitches to throw and things like that. So from second base, he would give the signs to Einar (Diaz) and he would tell me not to shake off. He’d say, “I’m calling the game, don’t shake off, just throw every pitch.” And he would call the games from second base. I pitched a playoff game my rookie year in 2001 against the Mariners (Game 3 of the ALDS). I gave up two runs in the first inning – I was kind of all over the place and kind of searching. Then he came in after the first inning and said, “Don’t shake off Einar, I got it. Just go.” And I went the rest of the game, went (six) innings, gave up just those two runs and that was it.
JS: Do you remember the first time you put on the No. 42 jersey in honor of Jackie Robinson?
CCS: When I first came up, it wasn’t a thing where everybody wears (No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day), like it is now. You had to put in a request to the league. So I remember the first year, Torii Hunter and Ken Griffey Jr. were the only guys to wear it. Then I remember coming into Spring Training the next year and Torii said, “You need to put a request in. It’s going to be all of the African-American guys.” And that’s kind of how it got started – Torii and Ken wearing the jersey. I think I remember the first time I put it on (for a game I pitched). I pitched against the White Sox and had a good game (in 2007). I went (8) innings, gave up (one run) (and struck out 10 batters).
JS: Are you conscious of wearing No. 42 when you’re on the mound for Jackie Robinson Day?
CCS: Yeah, one-thousand percent. You look forward to it. Me being an African-American player, I wouldn’t be here playing this game if it wasn’t for him. It means everything to honor him and put that number on.
JS: When do you first remember hearing about Jackie Robinson’s legacy?
CCS: My grandfather was a huge fan of Jackie Robinson, but my high school coach was the one that really taught me the history about him, and made us read books about him and look him up.
JS: Is there anything you know now about the game that you wish you could tell the rookie 20-year-old just making it to the majors?
CCS: Yeah, just to be patient. It’s all going to come. I wanted it so fast, so early. I wanted to be an ace, I wanted to be that guy. But I just had to mature and go through that maturation process. It was a struggle at times, just to be patient. But for me, it would be just to tell myself to be patient.
JS: Which plaques on the wall will mean the most to see when you visit the Hall of Fame?
CCS: Ken Griffey Jr. – I was always a big fan of his. He was one of my favorite players growing up. And Rickey Henderson. Those two guys are the ones I’d want to take a picture in front of, for sure.
JS: Do you envision being involved in baseball in the future?
CCS: Yeah, I definitely want to be around. I want to be around here (Yankee Stadium), maybe as Special Assistant. I love hanging around the young guys, talking pitching, talking baseball. It would be cool to be around here in some capacity and hopefully help the team out.
Jon Shestakofsky is the vice president of communications and education at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum